Providing our children safe and nutritious meals at school is a key priority for the Obama Administration. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) helped meet this goal through its $100 million investment in local school systems to enhance the nutritional quality of school meals. This funding went towards the purchase of new kitchen equipment for thousands of schools across America participating in the National School Lunch Program . Priority was given to schools that have at least 50 percent of the students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals.
Overall, these ARRA investments help ensure that students in communities hit hard by the economic downturn have access to nutritious food needed to focus in class and do well in school as well as help support local, skilled workers involved in installing this equipment. Examples of equipment purchased with ARRA funding include: double stacked ovens, refrigerators, walk-in refrigerators and freezers, warming pans, convection and combination steamer ovens, dishwashers, mixers and ice machines.
I recently visited Walker Elementary School in Concord, New Hampshire that, thanks to ARRA funds, purchased a new dish washing machine. The one they had was too old for replacement parts to fix it and there were no funds available to buy a new one. Last year $100 million in competitive grants were made available to schools across the nation to buy equipment critical to ensuring children receive healthy, safe meals.
All it takes is one visit to a school kitchen, especially one like the Walker School staffed by a single food service worker responsible for daily meal preparation, service and clean-up to see what a difference one piece of equipment makes.